A consistent favorite among vintage enthusiasts, Nivada Grenchen originally built its reputation by producing function-forward timepieces during the golden era of the mechanical tool watch. Since the brand’s revival in 2018, Nivada Grenchen has enjoyed a number of highly popular releases that reimagine fan-favorite designs from its history and update them for the modern era. For its latest new release of 2023, Nivada Grenchen has dipped back into its archives to recreate its very first dive watch that originally appeared at the end of the 1950s. While the overall aesthetic of the new Nivada Grenchen Antarctic-Diver is remarkably true to that of the vintage original, it now features a slightly larger case, along with modern materials and an updated automatic movement to create a thoroughly retro-inspired skin diver that still offers all of the durability and convenience of a contemporary wristwatch.
Originally launched in the mid-1950s, the Nivada Grenchen Antarctic is the brand’s lineup of robust sports watches that expand upon the core design of its very first water-resistant timepiece, which was known as the Aquamatic. Nivada Grenchen supplied the U.S. Navy with Aquamatic watches for Operation Deep Freeze, which was a pioneering excursion to the South Pole that took place in 1955/1956. Surviving rain, snow, and freezing temperatures, the supplied Aquamatic watches reached the southernmost point on Earth, and Nivada Grenchen released the Antarctic collection to celebrate its role in the successful expedition. While the original Nivada Grenchen Antarctic models from the 1950s were simple and straightforward three-handed sports watches that were characterized by their water-resistant cases and highly legible displays, the collection would later be expanded at the end of the decade to include other variations such as the Antarctic-Diver, which offered a more purpose-built take on the brand’s original tool watch concept.
The original Nivada Grenchen Antarctic-Diver first appeared at the very end of the 1950s and remained in production throughout the early 1960s. While the vintage original featured a compact 36.5mm case, the new reissue model for 2023 is built upon a slightly larger case made from 316L stainless steel that measures 38mm in diameter with an overall lug-to-lug profile of 45mm. The case itself features brushed top surfaces with high-polished sides, while a 6mm signed crown sticks out at the 3 o’clock position and screws down to help create 200 meters of water resistance. Additionally, on the new reissue model, the lugs are set 20mm apart, and just like the original vintage example, the lugs curve downward from the case in order to allow the watch to sit more ergonomically against the top of the wrist.
Protecting the dial of the new Nivada Grenchen Antarctic-Diver is a box-shaped sapphire crystal with gently domed edges, and it features a magnification bubble protruding from the surface at the 3 o’clock location, which enlarges the date display that resides below it. Due to the way that the crystal sticks up above the rim of the bezel to emulate the appearance of the acrylic crystals fitted to the vintage examples, the overall thickness of the new Nivada Grenchen Antarctic-Diver comes in at 13mm (not including the magnification bubble), while the solid screw-down stainless steel caseback fitted to the reverse side of the watch features an engraving of a penguin, which is the symbol used for Nivada Grenchen’s Antarctic collection.
Surrounding the crystal of the new Nivada Grenchen Antarctic-Diver is a rotating timing bezel, and just like the bezels fitted to the original vintage models, it rotates bidirectionally without any type of click or ratcheting action. With that in mind, rather than being fitted with a standard aluminum insert, the bezel on the new Antarctic-Diver features a black ceramic insert with a fully-demarcated luminous scale. The stainless steel rim of the bezel features wide blocky grooves (similar to the style found on many other vintage skin diver watches), and the upper edge of the bezel slightly flares outwards in order to make it easier to grip. Although vintage examples of the Antarctic-Diver can be found with a handful of different bezel inserts, Nivada Grenchen opted for one of the more traditional styles for this re-edition, rather than one of the versions that also includes an additional 12-hour scale printed along its interior.
Similar to how a variety of different bezels can be found on vintage examples of the Nivada Grenchen Antarctic-Diver, the style of dial can also vary between models. For this modern reissue piece, Nivada Grenchen has opted for a dial that faithfully recreates one of the more popular variants, with a matte black surface that has white printing and thin red cross-hair lines running through the center. The hour markers appear as small painted luminous batons (rather than as applied elements), while the Nivada Grenchen logo sits on the upper half of the dial, with the “Antarctic-Diver” name printed opposite it on the lower half in the exact same cursive-style font that appears on the vintage models from the early 1960s.
The Nivada Grenchen Antarctic-Diver displays the time with a trio of centrally-mounted hands that appear in a wide baton shape, and while the hour and minute hands are brushed with polished bevels along their sides, the seconds hand is a thin needle with a red-painted tip that matches the crosshair lines printed on the dial. Additionally, to further lean into its thoroughly vintage appearance, the luminous material on the hands and hour markers features an aged “cream latte” colored tint that emulates the patina that can be observed on the original vintage examples. Additionally, despite having white lume on the bezel insert and beige lume on it the dial and hands, all of the luminous material that appears on the new Antarctic-Diver emits a similar green-colored glow when viewed in the dark.
Powering the new Nivada Grenchen Antarctic-Diver is the Swiss-made Soprod Caliber P024 automatic movement. Based upon the core architecture of the ubiquitous ETA 2824-2, the Soprod P024 runs at a frequency of 28,800vph (4 Hz) with a power reserve of approximately 38 hours. While Soprod movements are less commonly used than their ETA or Sellita counterparts, the underlying design of the Cal. P024 is virtually identical to the versions produced by Soprod’s competitors, and it offers the same familiar design that is easily serviced and universally known for its reliability. While the Soprod P024 won’t give you the bragging rights that accompany an in-house caliber, the original vintage examples of the Nivada Grenchen Antarctic-Diver were powered by common third-party movements and a modern equivalent such as the Cal. P024 makes a highly practical option for a faithful contemporary reissue piece.
Rather than pairing its watches with just one type of wristband, Nivada Grenchen makes its models available with a variety of different options, and the new Antarctic-Diver can be purchased with a total of ten different straps and bracelets. Alongside black or brown leather straps are a variety of different stainless steel bracelets, including a number of styles from Forstner, such as its Bonklip, Rivet, and Beads-of-Rice bracelets. Additionally, a black tropic-style rubber strap is also available for the Antarctic-Diver, and just like the leather straps, the rubber strap tapers from 20mm at the lugs to 16mm where it connects to a signed stainless steel pin buckle. While Forstner also sells these same styles of bracelets separately on its own website, the versions that come with the Antarctic-Diver feature Nivada Grenchen’s logo engraved on the clasp, rather than having Forstner’s own emblem appear on them like the regular ones that are sold as aftermarket third-party options.
Alongside the new Antarctic-Diver watch, Nivada Grenchen is also releasing a hardcover book that chronicles the history and evolution of the brand’s Antarctic collection. Written by Aashdin K. Billmoria, who has been a passionate collector of the brand since childhood and a full-time horology writer, historian, and lecturer for the past three decades, this deep dive into the Nivada Grenchen Antarctic starts with the Aquamatic models that preceded the Antarctic series and includes many of the most famous references from both the classic three-hand and diver collections. After releasing its first book on the Chronomaster and receiving an incredibly warm reception from collectors and enthusiasts, Nivada Grenchen has decided to create a series of volumes, with each one dedicated to a different collection or category of watch. The objective of the books is to provide a comprehensive 100-page overview with accompanying images, and Nivada Grenchen plans to release a new volume on an annual basis.
Although options for vintage-inspired dive watches are plentiful these days, the Nivada Grenchen Antarctic-Diver still represents a rather compelling offering. The 38mm case size is right in the sweet spot for what many people want from a retro-themed skin diver, and it strikes a nice balance of being traditional enough to offer a significant amount of aesthetic versatility, while still showcasing plenty of funky vintage-inspired charm. Additionally, with an official retail price of $1,000 USD, the new Antarctic-Diver comes in below similar contemporary offerings that are powered by Swiss movements, such as those available from Oris or Zodiac, while also offering access to an early and highly elusive design from Nivada Grenchen’s history. Lastly, for those interested in the new Antarctic book, it can be purchased separately for $65 USD, and it makes a nice accompaniment for the watch, as it tracks the evolution of the Antarctic collection from the brand’s very first water-resistant timepieces to the dive watch models that serve as the inspiration for this latest new release. For more information on the Nivada Grenchen Antarctic-Diver, please visit the brand’s website.